Passion Fruit

As many dessert- minded couples are discovering, wedding cakes brightened by touches of fresh fruit make for delightful eating.

When guests at Cara-Lee Williams and William Stephenson’s reception bit into their wedding cake, they got a juicy surprise. The outside of the cake—white fondant decorated with sugared pears and green grapes—matched the wedding’s subtle yellow-and-green color scheme, but the sparkling fruit was only a preview of the flavors within. Ripe kiwis and strawberries had been mixed into the buttercream filling.

“We were having a spring wedding,” says the North Attleboro bride of her May 2005 nuptials at Boston’s Club Longwood, “so we wanted something fresh.” As the Stephensons discovered while planning their reception, along with other dessert-minded couples, wedding cakes can be delightful eating, particularly when brightened by touches of fruit.

Taste the Rainbow
Using fruit in wedding cakes is a beloved tradition. Paula Mizzoni, manager of Mike’s Pastry in the North End, has been fielding orders for cakes with sliced strawberries or peaches layered inside for 30 years. But recently there have been no limits on the variety of fruits, or the ways they are incorporated into the reception’s showpiece. And although demand for wedding cakes that use fruit may be highest in spring and summer, more and more often they are requested year-round.

The reasons are obvious: “[Fruit-laced cakes] are light and they’re luscious,” says Lynn Bruno, head pastry chef for the Vicki Lee Boyajian bakery in Needham.

Bruno’s “Winter White” wedding cake, available year-round despite the name, follows the tradition of using fresh strawberries mixed with pastry and whipped cream to fill white cake. To add a bit more fruit flavor—and flair—the cake is laced with Grand Marnier, an orange-flavored liqueur. The company’s Framboise cake pairs almond flavoring—with almond paste cooked into white cake—with raspberries and raspberry preserves.

Stealing the Show
It’s no accident these cakes are focused on flavor. Local pastry chefs say fruited wedding cakes are a natural outgrowth of the movement toward making the wedding cake the reception’s main dessert.

“I wanted people to look at my cake and say, ‘That looks delicious. I want to eat that.’ Not just, ‘That looks so beautiful,’ ” says Collette Becker, a Haverhill bride. Her reception, at the Pondview Restaurant in Kingston, New Hampshire, featured a cake with a cascade of strawberries. “You think of strawberries and chocolate and it’s romantic,” she says. Inside, between yellow cake and chocolate buttercream, was a layer of raspberry jam. The flavors in the cake, designed by Jeanne Topham, owner of I Dream of Jeanne cakes in Andover, complemented the April affair.

“Today’s brides want berries or strawberries on their cakes, or they want fruit as a filling in the cake, not just as a flavoring for buttercream,” says Topham. “Some brides want to bite into a chunk of fresh fruit.”

Fruit offers a range of flavors and incredible versatility. Ursula Argyropoulos, owner of Ursula Art of the Cake in Jamaica Plain, says her most popular cake has long been “Killer Chocolate.” This unusual cake uses a purée of raspberries mixed into a mild goat cheese to fill the layers of an intense chocolate cake. The entire creation is frosted with raspberry buttercream. “If I talked to people about it, they often would turn their noses up at it,” she says. “But if I got them to try it, then they loved it.”

Argyropoulos also enjoys incorporating exotic fruit into cakes. “I do tend to use a lot of passion fruit,” she says. The baker likes to mix the tropical fruit into her own passion fruit buttercream or, because she makes her own preserves, into a passion fruit jam, which can add a burst of flavor between a cake’s layers.

Ripe for Consideration
Although most produce can be found 12 months out of the year, taste-conscious brides would do best to remember the seasons. “We do offer strawberries year-round,” says Charissa Rudnick, director of operations for Rosie’s Bakery in Brighton. “But we tell people we can’t guarantee how good the strawberries will be in the winter.” When berries are out of season, she might steer brides to cakes that use raspberry preserves or lemon curd.

The appeal of fruited wedding cakes can be visual as well as flavorful. While decorative fruits created out of icing, sugar, or an almond-paste marzipan can lend a fresh look to any cake, real fruit is stepping up to become a showpiece as well. Many bakers prefer to add a bit of gloss to red or black berries or the delicate champagne grapes that often embellish wedding cakes. The two most popular methods, sugaring and glazing, work for a variety of produce, from tiny kumquats to fully ripe pears.

Sugaring involves dipping the fruit into a very thin layer of egg white and then into fine sugar. Once the fruit dries, the sugar crystals give each piece a sparkly, almost iced look. Fruit can be glazed for a more even shine. Glazes are usually straight sugar syrups that are applied by brushing or drizzling, but they can contain a bit of fruit, as with the apricot glaze that Bruno prefers. “It’s not overly sugary,” she says.

How fruits are used as decoration is evolving. Kelly Delaney, owner of Cakes for Occasions in Danvers, sees a movement toward fruit cascades, in which a seeming waterfall of fruit appears to tumble down a cake’s side. For this illusion, she recommends a mix of fruits “so you can fill in the spaces between larger fruits, like strawberries, and you won’t see any icing.” On tiered cakes, a blanket of fruit around each layer can be arranged to create the appearance of space: Is each tier really layered on the one beneath, or on a bed of berries? Only the pastry chef knows for sure.

The decorative—and flavorful—essence of fruit can extend even to plating. Bruno often prepares an extra bowl of berries, which may be macerated in Grand Marnier or in a fruit purée. The caterer can spoon this extra fruit onto the plate as a garnish that adds flavor as well as color. Strawberries dipped in chocolate or white chocolate can dress up each individual serving, providing a sweet treat at the wedding’s end.